“Everything is always impossible before it works. That is what entrepreneurs are all about – doing what people have told them is impossible.” –Hunt Green, venture capitalist
“It will never work”, Rick told Bill after seeing his unique body care product line. “How do you expect to be successful in the shadow of the other companies making similar products?” he asked.
Janet gently inquired of her friend, “Jonathan, an electronic device, no bigger than a business card that stores 1000 songs on it – I don’t think so…”
I’ve spent the better part of the month interviewing prospective participants –all of them entrepreneurs for a year long business development program that starts soon. These 20 some odd business owners are all vying for one of seven seats in my program because they believe in their product and have a passionate vision much like the two mentioned above.
While listening to the personal, inspired stories of each motivated individual hoping to build their business into healthy and profitable enterprises I was struck by a handful of common themes, which revealed the magnificent spirit of entrepreneurship.
My definition of an entrepreneur is someone that not only embodies vision, passion, and purpose, but also has the ability to act – to bring their vision into fruition. Entrepreneurs have creativity, inspiration, energy, and innovation, but most importantly – their gift is the ability to see an opportunity and run with it despite the nay sayers of the world.
No, being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. I love the distinction Colin Turner, author of Lead to Succeed: Creating Entrepreneurial Organizations, draws between warriors vs. worriers, entrepreneur-minded versus non-entrepreneur minded folks. He says that it is ultimately your beliefs and your thinking that makes the difference, enables you to be the warrior and live with the risks inherent in being an entrepreneur.
Here is my top 5 list of qualities I consistently see embodied in true entrepreneurs like the folks applying for my program. Can you find them in yourself?
1. Optimism about the future and the potential your business holds. Entrepreneurs by nature tend to see the world as a half full glass. Some force of nature, often inexplicable seems to pervade the status quo and drive you (sometimes) kicking and screaming into the unknown. Even though you feel fear like everyone, you are somehow able to transcend it and shift your focus to what is possible. If you can recall when you have done this, pat your self on the back.
2. Self-confidence, independence and a willingness to take risks. What does it take to be comfortable with risk? You trust you will land on your feet. That’s one definition of confidence. Self confidence also breeds independence – a knowing you’ve got what it takes – not only to blaze the trail, but walk on it alone (and you probably prefer it that way). In addition to preferring and valuing freedom, you also have the ability to mobilize resources when necessary.
3. A healthy dose of common sense, friendship with reality and the ability to discern when you’re deluding yourself. This is critical. How do you learn to distinguish between nay sayers and good advice? It’s always important to listen to the dissenting voice. You may learn something important about your product or about your self even though it may be hard to hear. It’s easy to get caught up in your own excitement and lose perspective.
4. Lots of energy and a will-do spirit that drives you through your toughest days. Bottom line – this takes a continuous reminder of your purpose, passion and inspiration to maintain your energy. Your re-connection to your “why” will get you through the waves of overwhelm, feeling stuck and gloom. When I ask entrepreneurs why they started their business they all light up. It never fails. You have a reason you’re willing to assume the risks and put everything on the line. What is it? Remember it and put a structure in place to remind yourself of it often.
5. Constant attention to a balance between focus and creativity. It takes both, yet most people prefer one over the other. Often business owners go into business to offer something to the world. It’s easy to lose track of building foundations and putting necessary systems in place for a healthy business. Conversely, you can also get lost in the details and dry up the stream of creative juice that keeps your business alive and growing. Which end do you prefer and what do you need to do to restore balance?
Actually, maybe saying “never” to an entrepreneur is the best gift you can give them. Perhaps this is the sixth quality that entrepreneurs have in common – the unrelenting drive to prove possibility, to take hold of the gauntlet and run with it, all the way to a great life… and the bank.
It’s YOUR life…imagine the possibilities!